DRAGONS v WASPS (Tonight, KO 7.45)
NEWPORT Gwent Dragons head coach Darren Edwards admits there’s little chance of catching Dai Young’s Wasps cold once the frost covers are removed from the Rodney Parade pitch.
The Aviva Premiership outfit head to Newport this evening aiming to cement a home draw in the quarter-finals of the Amlin Challenge Cup while the hosts, seemingly, have little to play for.
Throw into the mix the Dragons’ five-game losing streak and their failure to claim a big European scalp this season and it’s clear why the bookies believe it will be an away win.
However, there are plenty of old heads in the Wasps camp who won’t get lulled into a false sense of security about it being a routine evening at Rodney Parade.
The coaching team is headed by former Cardiff Blues prop Young, his deputy is ex-Newport full-back Shane Howarth and under their command are Nicky Robinson, Stephen Jones and Rhys Thomas.
All five are former Wales internationals and fresh from being edged out in Bayonne by Mike Phillips’ last-gasp try, Edwards is hoping to avoid more pain at the hands of compatriots.
He said: “We had the curse of the Welshman last week, hopefully we won’t have the same again!
“But I’m under no illusion that we are going to blind side Dai, they will not be complacent and are fully aware of the challenge ahead of them and what they will get at Rodney Parade.
“This game matters for us and it’s about building momentum because we have some players in good form and want that to continue.
“We may not have got the wins but out of our four games in a short space of time there were three brilliant performances.
“We should have won at the Blues while the Ospreys game went on small margins and Dan Biggar was the difference.
“We fell off the horse in Connacht (drubbed 30-11) but after a gruelling travel week were excellent in Bayonne.
“I desperately wanted to be able to pat them on the back and say ‘good win’ last week but we just need to get over that hurdle.
“These players have had some tough times but they are a pleasure to coach and their attitude is superb. Don’t worry about our motivation tonight.”
A win would secure a home quarter-final for Wasps but they would need a freak set of results to earn the top seeding and avoid one of the three big guns who will drop down from the Heineken Cup.
They require Bath to lose to Bucaresti AND Glou-cester to suffer a home defeat to Mont-de-Marsan – the former simply won’t happen and the latter is unlikely.
If the Dragons can turn Wasps over then Dai Young’s side will qualify as eighth seeds and face Bath at the Rec.
The Dragons are boosted by the return of fly-half Dan Evans, who has been absent since suffering an ankle injury against the Blues on Boxing Day.
Ashley Smith starts at inside centre in place of Andy Tuilagi, who strained a hamstring in Bayonne, while Wales squad members Andrew Coombs and Toby Faletau start in the pack.
Wasps hand their number 10 jersey to Robinson with Jones backing him up on the bench.
The pair will try to get a potent back line moving, including England pros-pects Christian Wade, Tom Varndell and Elliott Daly.
- The game had to be shifted to Cardiff City Stadium when Wasps headed to Wales to take on the Dragons in Europe in 2010. Extra covers were delivered to Rodney Parade earlier this week to ensure the televised game gets the go-ahead.